A call has been made for the reinstatement of the Rural Development Programme (RDP ) in northeast Mayo which was suspended almost a year ago due to an investigation into governance issues within the Mayo North East Leader Partnership (MNELP ).
Only €4.4 million of a €10.8 million allocation of funding for the area has been drawn down, according to Fine Gael Deputy Michelle Mulherin who has called on the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, to allow the MNELP to resume work.
According to Dep Mulherin it is of utmost urgency that this company commence operation to assist business, tourism and community groups in the region which are losing out on LEADER funding for rural development projects and initiatives.
Dep Mulherin told the Dáil this week that there were no remaining obstacles preventing Mayo North East Leader from resuming its work since a Department investigation into complaints about governance issues found that the company “is now fit for purpose” and has “implemented the report’s recommendations”.
The Ballina deputy also highlighted the “very positive work” of the staff on the ground and within communities in the Mayo northeast area.
She implored the Minister to make arrangements for the resumption of the delivery of the RDP by the LEADER Partnership, even if supervision is required by the Department.
Speaking in the Dáil Dep Mulherin said: “I am well aware that it is governance issues within the company which had led to the suspension of the RDP since last March 2012. I accept that these issues should be investigated and due process observed, which has not yet concluded, however, I believe these issues have been sufficiently isolated in the course of the investigation to allow the ordinary business of the company to continue at this stage.Dep Mulherin highlighted how a new regime within the company had led to a “good working relationship” with the company and the Minister’s department.
The deputy has highlighted that 2013 is the last year of the current round of funding and fears that the entire area under the remit of the MNELP will lose out on necessary funding.
“I am increasingly, on a regular basis, being contacted by individuals and community groups from Ballycastle to Ballyhaunis who are very frustrated over their inability to get assistance with tourism, business, and other area projects because of the ongoing suspension of the RDP,” said Dep Mulherin, and she added that while there has been “considerable speculation, fear and negativity” surrounding the company since the investigation has been ongoing it was important to bear in mind the very positive work of the staff on the ground and within communities in the Mayo northeast area.
According to Dep Mulherin there are nearly 400 people in employment and training under the umbrella of the company which has an excellent working relationship with State agencies like FÁS, VEC, HSE, Pobail, Mayo County Council, and the Departments of Social Protection and Health - “many of which have their own audit systems in respect of their engagement with the company and arising out of which there are no problems”.
The company also delivers the Local Community Development Programme, the Local Employment Service, the Jobs Initiative Programme, the Local Training Initiative, and the training of participants on Community Employment, Rural Social and FÁS schemes.